Not long after halfpipe skiing first appeared in the Olympics, Whistler's Cassie Sharpe earned a gold medal of her own in the pipe, taking top spot at the Aspen/Snowmass Freeskiing Open.
Sharpe won the AFP World Tour gold-level event by earning a score of 83.20 from judges in the women's final held Sunday, Feb. 23. Fellow Whistler skier Mackenzie Wilson had an impressive fourth-place finish.
"I'm pretty happy about it," Sharpe said Tuesday, Feb. 25 from her native Comox. "My skiing's finally coming back since my injury last year... I've definitely been working hard to be where I'm at now."
Sharpe has been skiing well since the calendar flipped to 2014, earning top-20 finishes at World Cup events in Calgary and Colorado in January, then winning the bronze-level Canadian Open Tour event in Moonstone, Ont., a few weeks later. The 21-year-old beat out U.S. skiers Jamie Crane-Mauzy (79.00) and Zyre Austin (76.60) in Aspen for one of the biggest wins of her career, plus the $1,500 top prize.
The 2018 Olympics are a long-term goal for Sharpe, and by winning the first major contest since the sport's Games debut, she's put herself on a good path toward Pyeongchang.
"It's definitely a good one to put under my belt," she said. "I've been doing a lot of airbagging and practicing to get some of the bigger tricks. A left corked 9 is what my next step's going to be, and I've got my back-to-back flairs back. I'm definitely working hard on catching up to those girls (who competed in Sochi)."
Wilson was less than a half-point short of the podium on Sunday, finishing with a score of 76.20.
Whistler-based skiers on the men's B.C. Pipe and Park Team also headed to Aspen for the weekend of competition. Brenden Reid made it through to the men's slopestyle final held Friday, Feb. 21 and earned a score of 73.83, good enough for eighth place out of a field that started with more than 100 skiers.
Taylor Wilson finished 11th in his superpipe semifinal heat on Saturday, Feb. 22, but wasn't among the 12 skiers in total who advanced to the final.
PAYAK DRAWS HUNDREDS
The Sigge's P'ayakentsut loppet returned to Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, Feb. 22 with hundreds of cross-country skiers of all ages testing their endurance in several different distances.
Phil Villeneuve outlasted the field for a victory in the men's 50-km race, finishing the course in two hours, 39 minutes, 40.2 seconds to take the title. He beat runner-up Leighton Poidevin to the line by 18 seconds. Glenn Bond was another 10 minutes back to wind up in third place.
Michele Wolfe posted a time of 3:08:56.8 to win the women's distance, a mark that put her among the top 10 skiers who finished the 50-km course overall. Christine Fletcher came through the finish about nine minutes behind, and Frances Vice skied her way into the bronze-medal position.
The men's 30-km race had the biggest turnout, and Callaghan Valley Training Centre athlete Martin Schrama earned the victory with a time of 1:30:34.5. The race ended up being close between those on the podium, as second-place finisher Dudley Coulter was just 13 seconds back and Spencer Lacy was only 18 seconds behind in third.
The women's 30-km race saw a triumphant Barbara Turner finish in 1:44:48.8, giving her nearly seven minutes of breathing room between her and runner-up Carolyn Daubeny. Dita Formankova finished third, and Whistler's Nicki Murdoch placed sixth overall.
Local athletes were on top in the youth women's 15-km distances, with Sea to Sky skiers sweeping the 13 to 15 age group. Mila Wittenberg earned the victory, while Julia Long and Kaede Kawano were separated by just two-tenths of a second while finishing second and third, respectively. Alisa Feuz was fourth, just one second outside the top three.
Meanwhile, Whistler's Lauren Doak earned a comfortable win in the 16 to 17 age group, more than 16 minutes ahead of Katie Weaver and Eliza-Jane Kitchen.
In the boys' divisions, Seth van Varseveld claimed the 13 to 15 age group win by eight minutes over Pemberton's Joe Davies. Eric Inkster finished third. In the 16- to 17-year-olds race, Emile Vogel-Nakamura was the winner, while Adam Achs placed second and Kevin Fierling took third.
The men's 15-km event saw Matthias Jakob take top spot, while Steve Kariya finished second and third went to Pemberton's Tony Feuz. The women's race ended with Sarah Nathan in first, just four seconds ahead of Melanie Levesque. Diana Mauriks placed third. Standing skier Lou Gibson won the men's para-Nordic 15-km race.
Visit www.zone4.ca for full results.
SKI JUMPING CAMPS THIS WEEKEND
Any young athletes inspired after watching ski jumpers in Sochi during the Winter Games are in luck, because Whistler Olympic Park will be hosting introductory ski jumping camps over the next two weekends.
The "Flight 2022" single-day camps are for boys and girls aged eight and older, the first ones taking place Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2. The participants learn the basics of ski jumping, starting safely on small jumps and bumps. The cost is $30, which includes all rental equipment and trail fees. The camps run again on March 8 and 9.
A spring break camp for children aged eight to 13 is also scheduled for March 17 to 21 at Whistler Olympic Park. Campers gather daily at the facility from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and will explore all of the different sports and activities the 2010 legacy venue has to offer.
Visit www.whistlerolympicpark.com or call 604-964-0060 for more information.
KVRS TAKES OVER SNOWCROSS COURSE
The resort's most experienced racers got their turn on the Blackcomb Terrain Park's snowcross track when the Kokanee Valley Race Series continued last week.
Though the terrain park and track are usually filled with a younger crowd, it was age groups for racers in their 60s and 70s that were busiest in the Feb. 20 race.
Racers took two runs and counted the fastest for their official time. David Trussler was quickest in the men's 70 to 79 division, posting a time of 57.48 seconds on his final run to edge Lloyd Henderson. Butch White (56.05) won the men's 60 to 69 group by just three-tenths over Paul Psutka.
Other men's group winners were Dave Johnston (50 to 59), Michael Noc (40 to 49), Bawo Daibo (30 to 39) and Chris Christophersen (19 to 29), with Noc recording the fastest time of the day at 51.42.
Grace Oaks used her first-run time to top the women's 70-plus age group in 1:02.47. Barbara Walker (58.07) hung on to beat Joy Fera for the 60 to 69 division with her first-run time.
Other women's winners were Hannah McIntyre (19 to 29), Christine Yanisiw (40 to 49) and Sanae Tanaka (50 to 59), the fastest female of the race at 55.89.
The series resumes Thursday, Feb. 27 with a super-G to be held in the Dave Murray National Training Centre. Visit www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events for full details and results.